While my mental health issues have been the predominant focus of this blog lately, one of my nagging physical health issues has apparently reared its ugly head again.

In my last blog entry I mentioned that, typical of most Aspies, I tend to develop obsessive interests about various subjects from time to time. Back in the late summer of 2004, while living in NYC the first time, I took up a strong but ultimately short-lived interest in whitewater kayaking. I had never been in a kayak before, but was anxious to try it out and see if it was something worth getting more seriously involved in. The first step in that process was to sign up for a beginner’s kayaking lesson.

So, on September 11, 2004, I headed down to Chelsea Piers for my first lesson. I changed into a wet suit, and the instructor and I went over a few basics on the pier before launching into the Hudson River. I launched first, and splashed around a little bit in the water while the instructor got situated into his own boat. So far so good.

Meanwhile, another group of people were in the process of launching a huge tandem canoe into the water nearby, and for a minute it appeared as if they were going to launch it right on top of me. I slightly panicked, lost my concentration, and promptly flipped my kayak. At this point I suddenly found myself upside-down and underwater in the Hudson River.

An experienced kayaker in this position would have performed a simple Eskimo roll to get back upright again, but I wasn’t an experienced kayaker, and hadn’t yet been taught how to perform such a maneuver. Rather than attempting to roll, I decided to pull my cord and eject myself from the boat. I did so, and quickly swam back to the pier.

At some point during that process, though, my right shoulder exploded. I’d had problems with this shoulder when I was younger, but it had been years since it had given me any trouble and I had almost forgotten about it.

My dislocated shoulder quickly popped back into the socket on its own, but not before the damage had been done. For the next several weeks I was in agonizing pain, and the slightest movement of my shoulder would cause it to dislocate again. I could hear the bone grinding whenever I moved it, and it felt lik a bag of gravel.

Along with the rotator cuff, there’s a ring of cartilage called the labrum that holds your shoulder in place. MRI scans confirmed that my right labrum had literally been ripped in half, and that the ball of my humerus had been damaged. You know it’s a bad sign when a surgeon with 30 years experience operating exclusively on shoulders looks at your MRI’s and says, “Shit, that’s interesting!”

Surgery and a lot of physical therapy would be required to get my shoulder back in working order. Unfortunately, the day after I scheduled the procedure, I was laid off from my job and lost my insurance coverage. Fixing the shoulder would have to wait.

I moved to Oregon a short time later, but stuck to exploring whitewater rivers via hiking trails rather than by boat. By January or so, my shoulder was no longer in constant pain, but I still had to be careful about how I moved it.

When I moved back to Chicago in March and finally got insurance coverage several months later, I went in for some more MRI’s, and the doc wanted me to try some physical therapy before he operated. The PT didn’t help much, but I ended up declining surgery because the pain was no longer severe enough to justify it, I was beginning classes again and didn’t want to deal with the disruption, and I was worried about being screwed over by my health insurance provider based on some stupid loophole in the policy. (They had already sent me a $2000 bill for the MRI’s, and I was afraid to find out how much I’d end up paying for the surgery and weeks of physical therapy.) The doc said my shoulder should be okay as long as I’m cautious about how I move it, but that it would need surgery sooner or later.

Fast-forward about two years.

Last night I was on the sofa watching The Big Lebowski. I had my arms up behind my head when I felt a powerful sneeze coming on. I sneezed, and my right shoulder promptly popped out of its socket in a very familiar manner. It popped right back in again, as usual, but not before causing a huge amount of pain… And it’s been sore and unstable ever since, just like old times. Living in New York City apparently causes my right shoulder to dislocate without reason or warning.

Now that I actually have a pretty good health insurance plan, it looks like this would be the right time to start the process for having this thing fixed for good. From what I remember being told last time, the surgery will be done on an outpatient basis, I’ll be pumped full of interesting drugs for a few days, and then I’ll need a few months of physical therapy sessions.

Now I’m wondering if I should go ahead with my plan to enroll on a fairly intensive courseload this semester, or if I should hold off (and delay graduation) until I get this shoulder fixed.

And a happy Monday to you, too.

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